Kat L shares this beautiful birth story with us. The gown she wears is from Pretty Pushers: cute (and disposable!) alternatives to regular hospital gowns, and a BWF sponsor.
My darling husband found a local childbirth educator who offered a 12 week class that was her own blend of Brio and Bradley. We went ahead and registered even though we were planning on taking the hospital series as well because my husband knew that I really wanted a natural childbirth. The class was great! About halfway through I just knew that if I didn’t transfer care to a midwife, I was going to be strongly coerced into an induction right after my due date and I was sure that I was going to go well past.
My husband came with me to what would be my last OB appointment where I told the doctor that I wanted a natural childbirth. When she laughed at me and said, “Good luck with that! I would not have a natural birth ever!” I decided that I should start looking elsewhere. I was 32 weeks along. I also decided I needed a doula and started looking for one around OKC that was available during the “post New Year/Valentine’s Day” baby season. No luck, every doula I contacted had already made exceptions to take more clients than they usually do. Luckily in OKC the local doulas are a unified group and the SOS signal was sent out. I met with a woman was available and we clicked instantly. Doula, check!
I decided that I needed to watch The Business of Being Born. Halfway through I burst into tears (surprisingly not a common occurrence during my pregnancy) and said that I need a new provider NOW. I contacted the midwife group at one of our hospitals and told my story and they let me come in to meet with one of them. Thankfully they counted that “interview” as my first appointment and at 34 weeks along I transferred care to the midwives. Midwife, check! Phew!
I became very uncomfortable around week 38, with severe sciatic pain, and so I went ahead and took my maternity leave early. My husband had just started the police academy and was only allowed to miss eight hours of it so my mum came to town when I was 39 weeks along so I wouldn’t have to go into labor alone. The due date came and went. Two days after my due date I realized that, had I not changed providers, my baby would have “been delivered” by now.
I was glad that we weren’t rushing her but that did not stop me from doing everything I could to convince her to move out on her own. I walked, jogged, had my membranes swept (twice), ate spicy, stinky, greasy, food, had my husband on a prostaglandin “injection” schedule, and I even tried castor oil. When I took the castor oil and went for a curb walk and hours later didn’t even have a single BM, I was sure that I was dead inside and cried. My mum had extended her trip twice already waiting for this baby to make her move!
An ultrasound showed everything was fine, she was actually measuring a week small, but at about 41 weeks my blood pressure spiked and I started swelling pretty badly. Thanksgiving was coming up, and so we weren’t able to schedule an induction, but my midwife told me when she would be on call at the hospital and that if I felt something was wrong, I could come in and take it from there. I had been walking around dilated to a 4/5 for a while, lost three mucus plugs in two weeks, and still had not even had a single Braxton Hicks contraction.
The morning of the 23rd I woke up at 3am. The house was quiet. I was expecting my doula to come over around 7:30 or 8 and we were going to go to the hospital that day, the day before Thanksgiving, to see about using Pitocin to jump start labor. I was determined to use the smallest dose possible just to get things moving. So I got up alone, did some jumping jacks, bounced on my ball, did my hair and makeup, paced, cried, prayed, and did more jumping jacks. I sat in the nursery and told my baby that I was doing what I thought best for her at 42 weeks as my body was showing some signs that this pregnancy was becoming too much for it. By the time mum, my husband, and his son woke up, I was ready to face the hospital.
Our doula arrived and we caravanned to the hospital. She walked us up to Labor and Delivery triage where I calmly approached the desk and replied “I’m 42 weeks along, and I think it’s time to get things going.” When the nurse stopped staring at a non-laboring 42 week momma (outside of standard procedure to let a mom go that long), she took us into triage where I did a urine test and got strapped up with the external fetal monitors. Baby Grace was doing well and although my BP was high, thankfully it was not high enough to need magnesium to prevent seizures. In fact, at 8:30am they even recorded a contraction on the monitor. With that they gave me a low risk birthing suite and my midwife told me to use the breast pump and stairs to see if I could get things going. We walked halls, climbed stairs, had membranes swept and stretched again, and I pumped, but still no more contractions. My mum told me that maybe that first contraction was Grace telling me that she was ready.
At 12pm my midwife came in and sat with me quietly waiting for me to give the go ahead to start the Pitocin. I requested we start at only 2ml in the IV, increasing it only 2ml every hour. By the time my drip was up to 12ml I was having regular contractions that were “effective”. I was pacing, squatting, birthballing, walking the halls with my IV pole, my portable external fetal monitor, husband, and doula in my adorable Pretty Pushers “I <3 sushi” gown. My awesome childbirth educator even came up to check on us. I suddenly got very cold and lay in bed on my side with about 12 warm blankets piled on top.
I rested through some contractions. When it was time to get up I slipped into labor land and began vocalizing during contractions. My dear sweet husband was “being there for me” a bit too much and my mum and doula suggested he sit in the corner while my doula and I went into the bathroom to try and pee AGAIN.
I labored a while on the toilet with encouragement to keep my tones low. I also started having the hiccups and got nauseated. I said it was time to get in the water and my doula helped me in, still in my Pretty Pushers gown with the monitors and IVs and all (I love the mobility OU gives their laboring mamas), and she began spraying my lower back while I labored on hands and knees in the tub. At one point when the nurse and midwife were checking on me because they lost the baby’s heartbeat, I said that my water just broke. They asked how I knew and I said because instead of feeling the water run off my back, I felt it come from between my legs. There was no sign of meconium in the bath water and so I continued to labor. I knew I was in transition. The contractions were coming quickly and were intense but I was still perfectly fine laboring away. I told myself that I was close and that it might get more intense, but it wouldn’t be long.
At 10:30pm the midwife was back with the nurse saying that they kept losing the baby’s heartbeat on the monitors and asked if I could move to the birth ball beside the bed instead of being on the portable monitors. With contractions coming every other minute, I said “FINE”, and had my mum and doula help me from the tub. With my gown soaking wet (although still adorable), I didn’t enjoy the process of getting out of the tub, and they were having trouble getting the gown off. I yelled to “just cut it off, it is disposable,” which they then did and sort of wrapped a hospital gown over my front to warm me up a bit.
I made it to the birth ball through three contractions and finally sat and leaned forward on the bed as they messed with the monitors which were at this point extremely low in order to get a read (um, ding! Baby was much lower). Unfortunately they still couldn’t get a good read plus with my insistence that I was in transition, my midwife asked if she could check me. I said “no”, and she asked again, “Please can I just check you and see how things are going?” Fine! In one disgusting lopsided, IV and wire-tangled leap, I made it onto the bed.
I had a contraction at the exact moment that she checked me and I flat out screamed and instantly hit hands and knees. The room was quiet waiting for ‘the number’. “You are still a 5.” She said it sadly, like she knew it was not what we were expecting since I had been telling everyone I was in transition.
That was it! I was DONE. I cried out for the pain to stop, I couldn’t do it, I needed it to stop. If I had labored for this long and made NO progress, not one silly little cm of progress, how could I possibly go on for 10 more hours. It was 10:45pm and I was STILL a five! When I started shouting for the pain to stop, to make it stop, my team (mum, doula, and husband) were shocked and my midwife looked nervous… Like she was thinking, ‘Really, this hard headed, I’d-rather-die-than-have-an-epidural, it’s-just-pain-and-pain-won’t-kill-me woman is saying to make it stop?!’ Well, in my head those shouts were to God and I was pleading for him to speed things up.
My team was well prepared for this and my mum spoke up first, “It’s only going to stop when she is born. You are having a baby, and it is supposed to hurt. Deal with it.” I was in my own world, but I heard it clear as day.
Fine, if mum says I have to deal with it, then I will. The others in the room noticed I responded to that and so then there was a glorious chorus of “you are doing it”, “this is how it is”, “you can do this”, and unfortunately some more of those “deal with it, this is what it is and there is no stopping it.”
I got onto my left side. There was some activity and a person put my leg on one of those perfect height leg holder things that came from the side of the bed. There may have been talking. I felt the lights go dimmer, but I don’t know if someone actually dimmed them or not. Each contraction tore through me violently causing me to shake with it. I didn’t yell. In my head I prayed for it to stop. For it to just hurry up. If this is how my labor was going to be and if it was going to last for ten more hours like this, I better find a way to “deal with it.” I was there on my side holding my husband’s hand (I honestly don’t remember him coming to me and taking my hand, but when I needed that, I used it). I tried to re-focus the tension of my body naturally fighting the pain of the contraction into my hands, while simultaneously forcibly relaxing everything below my waist. Through one particular contraction I bit my husband’s hand and as it passed I regretted that. It wasn’t very nice of me. I didn’t do it again.
Mum across the room and my doula on the other side let my husband and I have our space while they commented encouraging murmurs when my breathing changed into contraction breathing. They lost Grace’s heartbeat another time and ended up putting one of the monitors pretty much right on the pubic bone to get a reading. So my contractions may not have been making me dilate but my baby was moving down low.
I am not aware of the time that my forcible relaxation switched to mild pushy pressure during contractions, but it was around midnight when my doula was pumping in the bathroom and noticed that I was pushing. She said that she was sitting there listening to the pushy sounds thinking, “Ah the midwife is there and it must be time to push.” This was surprising since just over an hour ago I was ‘still a 5’. Then she realized that there was no midwife there, my mum and husband had no idea those were pushy sounds, and I wasn’t going to tell anyone how good it felt to be pushing through contractions. I can’t even really describe how good it felt to be pushing through contractions, in secret, working with my baby, just the two of us.
My doula ran through the room to get the midwife and nurse, and as she was running by the bed asked how I was feeling. Mid-contraction I groaned “It burnnnssss.” In a few seconds the midwife and a couple of nurses came in and the midwife said she needed to check me because I couldn’t push without being dilated to 10 or I could tear my cervix. She checked me at 12:15ish and said “she is a 10 and crowning!” More flurries of activity and a spot light on my hoo-hah was the only additional light added, leaving me in my blissful pushy darkness. There was extreme burning as I was crowning and I yelled for my midwife to stop touching me down there, but she told me that Grace was crowning so quickly that she was using pressure to try to prevent tears.
I actually wasn’t pushing at all, but my body was bearing down like a freight train while I was breathing and moaning through it. Then I got the go ahead to really push, and on the next contraction I let her have it. First the head popped out and mum started crying, and I kept bearing down until I felt the relief of my whole beautiful baby squeesh out at 12:52 am on the 24th, only two hours after I had been checked and found to have not progressed at all.
In my head I thought it felt like a boney octopus had just come out of me. In the rush of hormones and adrenaline I blacked out and couldn’t see, but could still hear and feel and move.
I believe it was my mum who said, “Hold your baby” and I could tell someone was putting a squiggly, squirming, slippery baby on my stomach. She had a short cord so as we waited for the cord to stop pulsing, I held her to my tummy as best I could and my vision returned. I looked down and saw a very angry baby wailing her heart out about what I just put her through.
The first words out of my mouth were, “She just peed on me.” When the cord stopped pulsing, Danny was called down to cut it. Once she was free of her cord I scooched her up more comfortably on my chest to see her do the breast crawl. I delivered the placenta and reminded everyone that it was coming home with me because I was going to encapsulate it. Pictures were taken and my little first degree tears were stitched a bit, as we were waiting and watching Grace make her way to my breast to latch for the first time.
Grace eventually nursed and the activity died down. Mum and my doula left and Danny settled on the couch in the room to get some rest. I sat in the bed holding my baby until they were ready to wheel us to our recovery room. My dad likes to say that Grace being born at 1am on Thanksgiving Day was me taking the phrase “Grace before meals” too literally.
All of that happened just over a year ago and it completely changed my life. There were a lot of decisions that I had made leading up to the birth that led me to having the mostly natural delivery that I had wanted. No OB pressured me into inducing and because of that, Grace got two weeks longer to cook. I had learned about Pitocin ahead of time in my childbirth class and so I was able to make an informed decision about the dosing. The contractions were not as intense and unbearable as they would have been had I been started at a much higher dose and “upped” too quickly. I knew what the contractions were doing so that I didn’t focus on the pain, but instead was able to focus on my uterus working with my baby to help her down and out. I had a doula to help me and a team who knew just how much I wanted a natural birth. I had a fantastic midwife who was compassionate and respected my decisions.
It was a wonderful journey and I thank you for letting me share it with you.